Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from singing “Jolene” with Dolly in Cedar Park to stopping to smell the yellow roses of Texas in Tyler. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss. [Oct 7—Oct 14]



Blond Ambition
Nashville country doesn’t play well in Texas, but Dolly Parton gets a pass. Besides being perpetually endearing, Parton played a starring role in the cult-classic movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, about a real bordello in La Grange. As Mona Stangley, the no-nonsense, pistol-packing madam of the Chicken Ranch, Parton wooed both the local sheriff, played by Burt Reynolds, and a fictional Texas A&M football team. For the film, she re-recorded her hit song “I Will Always Love You” and saw it again shoot to the top of the country charts nearly a decade after it did when it was originally released. Lovers will rejoice in hearing a live version of that song—a staple of her concerts—when Parton returns to Texas in support of Better Day, her uplifting new studio album. “It seemed that with everything being so doomsday—terrorists and bad weather and unemployment—we need a little sunshine,” Parton told Billboard.
Cedar Park Center, Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.


Cabinet of Curiosities
At the Witte Museum, visitors “get” the art right down to its bones. The collection of 200,000 artifacts is full of items acquired directly from the South Texans whose culture the museum celebrates, including many items obtained by local military personnel while abroad. “It’s the people’s museum,” said Marise McDermott, the museum’s president and chief executive. “We’re a safe haven for civic discourse.” Saturday marks the 85th birthday of the Witte, “the attic of South Texas,” and for one day only, admission will be 85 cents. Divide your time between three commemorative exhibitions in the fields of natural history, art history and science: “Opening the Witte Wardrobe,” fashions of the times; “Out of the Vault,” samples of the permanent collection, including a taxidermied jaguar, Native American objects and paintings belonging to what McDermott calls the best nineteenth century Texas art collection; and “Witte Through Time,” photographs of the museum’s past, with an eye toward the future.
The Witte Museum, Oct. 7-March 25, April 29 and May 26, various times.


The Big Game
The natives are restless over the potential loss of the rivalry between Texas A&M and its in-state nemesis, Texas, now that the Aggies are packing up their tackle dummies and leaving the Big 12 Conference for the SEC. But the truth is that the annual Thanksgiving game between those two schools has increasingly paled in comparison to the Red River Rivalry, between the Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners. In 2005, 119 college football coaches ranked that inter-state, neutral-field showdown the best in the country, and five of the last ten BCS National Championship Games have included one or the other team. Both teams head into this year’s contest undefeated. The young, inexperienced Longhorns aren’t supposed to have a chance against the Sooners, ranked number three by the Associated Press, but with the mojo rising of newly-installed quarterbacks Case McCoy and David Ash, you just get the feeling this is going to be a nail-biter.
Cotton Bowl, Oct. 8, 11 a.m.,


Coming Up Roses
Roses are red. Republicans are, too. This may explain why at the Texas Rose Festival, Jenna Bush Hager and Ken Starr will be speaking to you. But these hosts of the ladies’ and men’s luncheons will shirk politics in favor of rhapsodizing on the most romantic flower known to man. Roses are plentiful in this area just east of Dallas. In fact, more than half of the nation’s rose bushes come from here. Hundreds of thousands of the beauties will provide the backdrop for a weekend that combines the glitz of a beauty pageant, the elegance of a royal wedding, and the wonderment of the Rose Bowl Parade. Visit the Tyler Rose Museum to learn how roses supplanted peaches as the area’s staple and then see the coronation of the Rose Queen. As with the festival’s early years, when it was the silver lining to the Great Depression, so does it now offer a reprieve from deflated times.
Various locations, Oct. 13-15, various times.


Renaissance faires can get tired, with their long-haired maidens and men in tights, but expect a hip, new crowd at the Four Winds Renaissance Faire’s “Wild, Wild West Steampunk Festival,” a mash-up of Western and “steampunk,” the popular Victorian style that is part industrial, part sci-fi.
Four Winds Renaissance Faire, Oct. 13-14, various times.


Surprise Party
Poodie Locke, Willie Nelson’s Buddha-like stage manager, taught Nelson about living in the moment, so even though Paula Nelson, Nelson’s daughter, is scheduled to play Poodie’s Birthday Party, don’t be surprised if Nelson turns up to sing a song for his deceased pal.
Poodie’s Hilltop Roadhouse, Oct. 8, 1 p.m.,